BRATTLEBORO—For the second time this year, an Illinois-based collectibles business is coming to town in search of gold and silver.
THR & Associates of Springfield, Ill. arrived in January with its “Treasure Hunters Roadshow” to see clients with treasures to sell, except the only treasures they really wanted to see were coins and some jewelry.
Representatives turned away paintings, mismarked paper money, and other items one might see at a yard sale.
News accounts and discussion boards online are littered with similar accounts from THR and its associated brands: The Buy/Sell/Trade Store, International Military Collectors Association, Ohio Valley Gold and Silver Refinery, and International Coin Collectors Association.
This week, THR will bring another of its subsidiaries, the Ohio Valley Refinery & Roadshow, to the Holiday Inn Express on Chickering Road, off Putney Road.
“If you have gold, silver, antiques, or other rare collectibles lying around your house, the [roadshow] wants to see them,” a press release for Ohio Valley states.
But will they leave more disappointed customers in their wake?
Matthew Enright, vice president of media affairs for THR and an officer of the corporation, conceded that when the Treasure Hunters Roadshow visited Brattleboro, there were problems, and that customers with paintings and collectibles other than coins and some jewelry were turned away. He put the blame on the manager of the Brattleboro show.
“I was furious when I heard about this,” Enright said, “and we retrained that manager, but he still didn’t work out, so he’s no longer with us.”
And Enright insisted that customers are encouraged to bring in anything they’d like to sell.
THR has been plagued by complaints recorded by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) — 19 in the past three years — and by several lawsuits.
Enright also took a dim view of the BBB complaints, pointing out that 19 was not a bad record for a company that’s been in business since 1996; when it was pointed out to him that the complaints were all filed in the last three years, he still didn’t flinch.
“Do you know how many people we see every week?” he asked, and then e-mailed the following information: “THR & Associates has seen 252,154 customers over the past six months. This is an average of 9,698 customers per week.”
He said this information came from THR’s accounting department.
Enright said that THR runs eight roadshow entities all over the United States and, he emphasized, “We’re also in four other countries: Canada, the U.K., Spain, and Germany.”
He explained that the company does not do appraisals, a practice that is regulated by the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice and the non-profit Appraisal Foundation.
Enright strongly advised that customers coming to this week’s roadshow in Brattleboro know beforehand what their property is worth and what they expect to get for it.
“Obviously,” Enright said, “this roadshow has its own refinery, so we are especially interested in coins.”
It’s not entirely clear how evaluations are made by THR.
“We have different outlets,” Enright said, referring to “experts” on call. “We have a database of collectors.”
And he mentioned taking pictures of items brought in by customers and then e-mailing them to collectors for evaluations.
Apart from continuing battles over trademark infringement with the producers of Antiques Roadshow, produced by WGBH in Boston for public television, THR is also cited for more mundane practices.
In a story about the infringement issues in Illinois, the Mount Vernon Register-News in March 2011 also cited “more than 40 bounced checks in January .”
In a response to that accusation, the paper quotes Enright: “The bounced checks, that’s old news,” he said. “We work with JP Morgan and Chase Bank, and write more checks than Ford Motor Company. It was less than 200 checks — less than 1 percent of what we write. It was an issue with the bank, and we immediately got it taken care of.”
The 19 BBB complaints included six about advertising and sales issues, two about billing and collection, one over delivery problems and 10 over problems with products and service. The BBB says that 14 of those complaints were resolved.
The BBB has nevertheless given THR, which is unaccredited with the consumer organization, a B-plus rating.
Anyone who feels they have been wronged by THR’s roadshow practices may contact firstname.lastname@example.org to file a complaint.